THE BLOG
11/27/2013 06:07 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2014

What Every Employer Needs to Know About 'Generation Y'

The workplace is evolving quickly and steadily. Not just in its physical attributes, but right down to its genetic code -- the people that are doing and running things. A new generation of talent has emerged, with values and desires that are fundamentally different than those of their predecessors. Members of "generation Y" (or millennials) were typically born between 1982 and 1996, when personal technology entered most households and child rearing favored encouragement over scrutiny. A predominant influence of technology and purpose-based ideologies has produced today's top young talent -- leaders, innovators, problem-solvers, and nose-to-the-grindstoners.

Yet, top-dog decision makers in most businesses are generally still from prior generations. They are scrambling to understand the desires of this new, temperamental cohort group, and how to adapt their organizations to meet them. So we asked some young professionals of this particular generation what they wished their leaders knew, and what makes them tick. Here's what we gathered:

"I'm from generation why, and looking for the answer."

When we established our core values and culture at 15Five, we were anticipating the needs of a new paradigm in business -- the higher purpose calling. Compelled by leaders who have discovered their why, this generation is looking for contagious passion and fuel to keep their own fires burning. Satisfaction comes from fully understanding motivations: "Does what I do matter? And if it doesn't, how can I make it matter to myself, my colleagues, my community, and to the rest of the world?"

"It's not about the paycheck, I want to feel like I'm a part of something."

We've heard this sentiment more than a few times. Financial reward only satisfies one side of the equation. Personal and professional growth comes from developing relationships, as well as products and services. Outdated workplace structures, like cubicles and offices, are transforming to open and shared spaces. Camaraderie and friendship are growing along with collaboration. Weaving team building and retreats into your calendar can go a long way towards fostering genuine relationships and creating a fulfilling enterprise for your team.

"Please stop micromanaging me."

This can often feel like a bratty attitude or a sense of unjustifiable entitlement. Employers have historically needed an adjustment period for employees to prove their worth and establish trust. We believe that from the get-go trust is to be granted, not earned. Trust that a sense of purpose is paramount, and that answering their "why" can motivate your team better than your constant supervision. This generation responds better to encouragement, and their best work will come when the microscope is lifted and they have room to breathe and think creatively.

"Communicate more clearly."

Vagueness helps no one, no matter what generation you inhabit. This sentiment asks leaders to create clearly defined goals and benchmarks. Connecting the dots is like a fun puzzle that compels critical thinking, whereas giving someone a blank canvas and asking them to figure it out can leave many lost and anxious. This is not a request to spell it out or hand-hold -- just request deliverables in a straightforward manner and watch your team implement your vision. Lastly, and something 15Five is a poster child for: Give feedback regularly and transparently.

"I have to like you or respect you as a person."

I hate my boss. We've all probably heard (or said) this at one time or another. This statement is sometimes followed by: But I love my job. Millennials are far less likely to stick out a career in spite of their disdain for management. With the next generation startups touting people-centred cultures, workplaces that suffer from poor leadership become less and less desirable. Life is way too short for generation Y'ers to spend the majority of their time with people they don't respect.

"Meaningless praise sounds like B.S."

So what's the difference between saying something motivational to get what you want, and authentic employee appreciation? There's a clear distinction between vague pats on the back and meaningful praise. This generation might have endured less scrutiny than others, but they also have an innate sense of skepticism. Make sure when you are giving feedback, that you convey genuine concern about your employee's growth both professionally and personally.

"Let me represent my work."

A sense of ownership can go a long way. This respondent shared the frustration of not being invited to meetings in which an idea or proposal she created was being discussed. With outsourcing and offshoring becoming part of the norm, it is critical to not make employees feel like their contribution is a hand-off. Trust that the person who does the work can speak to it better than anyone else, and let them feel the satisfaction of a job well done.

"Some quality time would be nice."

Quality time is not code for meetings. Meetings are set to determine the status of a project (or projects) and to generate the next actionable steps. Quality time is all about conversation. No pens, papers, taking minutes or voice notes. Important things may come up, but the purpose of free and open conversation is to create comfort and connection among team-members. The moment expectations are attached to these conversations, mentality shifts from authentically sharing what's on our minds to coming with pre-formed ideas created from a place of anxiety.

"When I say flexibility I am not asking to be lazy."

There comes a point in the day where you're pretty sure your brain has turned into scrambled eggs. But the clock says you still have three more hours to go. Flexibility means not expecting someone to fill their timecard to the brim when they are physically and creatively depleted. Requesting mixed hours over a straight workday does not make this generation lazy. All they require to produce results are expectations and a deadline. Giving your team the freedom to figure out the rest, including weaving in necessary downtime, will provide the space they need to perform their best work.

Are you gen Y, or do you employ gen Y? How have you adapted your workplace to accommodate a new and growing generation? Let us know in the comments below or tweet at us @15five.